Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UN Wants Death Toll

A strongly worded letter is being composed now.

Myanmar Junta Must Reveal Protest Death Toll, UN Says (Update3)

Myanmar's junta must reveal the death toll from last week's anti-government protests and give details about those jailed and missing, a United Nations official said after envoy Ibrahim Gambari met with the regime's leader.

``We are all extremely concerned with the aftermath of the unrest,'' Charles Petrie, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, said by telephone today from the former capital, Yangon. ``That was raised at the highest level in the strongest terms.''

Gambari met yesterday with General Than Shwe and other leaders of the regime to discuss its crackdown on the biggest pro-democracy protests in almost 20 years. Gambari is scheduled to brief UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the talks tomorrow before meeting with the Security Council.

At least 30 people were killed by security forces during last week's demonstrations and 1,400 others were arrested, the Australian government said yesterday. The junta in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, put the death toll at nine.

``We need to have a better understanding of what happened,'' said Petrie, who accompanied Gambari to the capital, Naypyidaw. The UN asked Myanmar's leaders to provide details about the number of people killed, wounded and detained and help trace missing people, said Petrie, the UN's most senior official in the Southeast Asian nation.

Gambari, who is scheduled to fly to New York today, declined to speak with reporters after meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Singapore currently presides over the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-member group that includes Myanmar.

Asean is ``fully behind'' the UN's push for ``national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy'' in Myanmar, Lee told Gambari, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

International condemnation of the regime has increased since soldiers clubbed and shot at demonstrators, raided monasteries and arrested Buddhist monks who led the protests.

The UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday that ``strongly deplores'' the crackdown.

China and Russia, which blocked a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution on Myanmar in January, were among the 47 member states that backed the measure criticizing the ``continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations.''

The resolution, adopted in Geneva, is one of the toughest issued by the year-old body. It also urged the regime to release political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and take steps toward installing a democratic government.

Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent almost 12 years in detention since the junta rejected the results of parliamentary elections in 1990 won by her National League for Democracy. Gambari was allowed to meet with Suu Kyi twice at her home in Yangon, where she is detained.

``The Myanmar authorities should no longer expect that their self-imposed isolation will shield them from accountability,'' Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said yesterday. ``The government must give a full account of its actions during and after the protests.''

The military has ruled the nation of 47 million people since 1962. The regime has a record of human rights violations, including summary executions, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers, which, according to the UN, are widespread and systematic.

Anti-junta protests began more than a month ago when the government doubled some fuel prices and intensified when Buddhist monks took to the streets.